Volvo S90 T8 R-Design - Hybrid with GT creds


If you’re in the market for a BEV, there are a few hatchback and van options, but in the full-sized luxury realm, Tesla is your only choice. If you want something a little more European and electrified, you’ll have to settle for a plug-in hybrid.

Words: Peter Louisson   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
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You get some emissions-free low cost EV running (around 35km in the case of the the S90 T8 you see here), without range anxiety on trips. The engine in this vehicle, the same twin-charged unit as in the T6, can propel the vehicle when cruising or the T8 can use both the engine and the motor when accelerating.

And because of its small 10.4kW/h battery pack, a home or away recharge doesn’t take long. The S90 is quite versatile too. For the engine powers the front wheels and the 65kW motor powers the rears, so in some drive modes, it’s 4WD. On top of that, there’s adaptive damping so in the Sports and AWD modes, the suspension offers a bit more resistance to lean, meaning you can press on when the urge takes you, or in the Hybrid drive mode, cruise in wafting style.

So it’s GT-like in that regard, something your luxo-4WDs can not really do, at least with as much grace. Nor as much elegance, which the new S90 T8 has in spades, both inside and out, but you expect that, right?

Ride quality is never in doubt.

The XC90 and XC60 are both up there for interior layout and style, so you expect the same of the S90 which doesn’t disappoint. It’s big too, this 2018 model adds 120mm in the wheelbase, most of which seems to have gone into the rear seat area where three adults can stretch out happily. Pop the powered boot lid and the hold seems to disappear back into the murky recesses. There’s around 500L of suitcase space there.

With the big and hybrid tags come cost and at $125,900 before options, this is more expensive than an XC90 T6 AWD R-Design ($114,900). The particular vehicle we drove had some options boxes ticked ($134,350) so you’re looking at something rivalling equivalent XC90 T8 ($138,900, both as R-Design variants). However, the sedan is lighter (though still over two tonnes) and better grounded so feels quicker on its feet.

It is also faster on the go, if that’s important to you, covering off the 0-100 sprint in 5.1sec versus almost six for the XC. In Sport mode the eight-speed auto slurs beautifully between gears, and it feels hasty. It’s more relaxed in the other modes but still grunty, as you’d expect with system power of 300kW and 680Nm.

Start it up after an overnight charge and you’ll see around 40km of EV range showing, which it will use up in Pure EV mode, or you can manage it in hybrid mode, holding it for later or bolstering charge while on the go. Optimally the S90 is rated at 2.0L/100km but that’s in some fairytale land where the engine seldom starts.

At pick up it was sitting on 6.5L/100km and that’s probably a fair indication of what it will use regularly. We saw a worst of just into double figures in Sport mode. The super- and turbocharged 2.0 engine is so strong across the mids and even lower revs that there’s little point extending it beyond 4500rpm. Early reports have mentioned steering and brakes aren’t quite up to GT standard, and we’d say they’re partly right about the latter.

Braking helps recharge the battery, and pedal sensitivity in hybrid vehicles is often wayward, as it is here. Stand on the anchors and it stops well, in 34m from 100km/h. But during less significant stops it’s a bit difficult to modulate the pedal ideally. With the lane keeping off and using AWD or Sport modes, there’s better steering fidelity than in the softer hybrid mode. And that’s largely because of firmer damping and added heft in these two settings. We noticed no torque steer.


Ride quality is never in doubt, and is superb thanks to air suspenders at the rear, just the occasional thump making its way through on sharp bumps taken with a bit much speed. This is easy to do given the high gearing, so active cruise control is a godsend. Cabin hush probably facilitates speed too, with no readings registering above 70dB on our SPL meter.

The four-pot engine is generally inaudible while the sound from the B&W audio is special. There’s just about every safety device known to cardom in this, except for auto wipers. Collision mitigation can detect other vehicles, humans and animals of multiple sizes, if not types. Perhaps by the time full autonomy happens, so will animal identification.

If you’ve a hankering for something luxurious but also with GT potential and that’s suave, safe, and sizeable the S90 delivers. It’s also comparable in price to smaller 5 Series, E-Class and A6 models.

If you’re not so fussed on the EV aspect, the T6 offers a similar experience without the motor and battery pack, saving around $25k but still with AWD.

The Stats

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Model Volvo S90 T8 R-Design  Price $125,900

Engine 1969cc, IL4, SC/DI, 235kW/400Nm

Transmission 8-speed auto, e-AWD

Vitals 5.06sec 0-100km/h, 2.0L/100km, 46g/km, 2077kg

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